National Grid To Ask Firms To Ration Power Use
Businesses may be asked to switch off their electrical equipment next winter in exchange for payment.
The National Grid says it could pay firms to cut their energy use on winter evenings in 2014 to help it cope with greater demand for energy use than it can provide.
The move, which has echoes of the blackouts in the early 1970s, comes amid warnings from the regulator Ofgem about the risk to the country from power shortages by the middle of the decade.
Ofgem says National Grid would offer businesses the chance to reduce their electricity use between 4pm and 8pm on weekdays in return for a payment.
The amount of money they are given would depend on how much they are prepared to accept in negotiations with the National Grid.
Britain's electricity network provider has not decided if it will definitely implement the scheme as it is too early to determine if it has enough energy supply for next winter.
A spokesman said it will make the decision in the new year.
The measure is one of two being being considered to help it cope with the possibility of tighter electricity supplies next winter.
The other gives National Grid the ability to agree contracts with power stations to provide extra reserve power.
Mothballed gas-fired plant and other generators would compete for these contracts.
A spokesman for National Grid said: "We welcome Ofgem's approval of the two new balancing services which are sensible measures to have in place for the next few winters with tighter margins.
"These services are an insurance policy and will be used as a last resort if electricity margins tighten."
Ofgem chief executive, Andrew Wright, said: "Our latest assessment on security of electricity supplies published this summer showed that electricity margins are set to tighten more quickly than previously expected in the middle of the decade.
"This is mainly because older coal power stations will close sooner.
"Britain has one of the most reliable power systems in the world, but with margins tightening there can be no room for industry complacency on security of supply.
"Therefore we have approved these new tools to act as an extra insurance policy that is available for National Grid to protect consumers' power supplies."
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